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Cedar Rapids Flood 2016: What you need to know

The latest flood news, closures, volunteer information and more

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Gazette staff

The Cedar River crested at about 22 feet in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday morning. Here is information area residents should know:

Jump to: Evacuation and emergency information | Volunteer information | Business information | Clean up | School and local government information | Road Closures and transportation

Previously: Flood preparations - everything you need to know

LATEST PROJECTIONS:

Q: What is the forecast for the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids?

A: According to the National Weather Service, the river crested at about 22 feet on Tuesday morning. As of 10 a.m. Friday, the river was at about 15.2 feet - below major flood stage. 

Q: What is the river expected to do next?

A: According to the National Weather Service, the river is to stay at moderate flood stage — 14 to 16 feet — until Saturday morning. The river is forecast to dip below action stage — 10 feet — Tuesday afternoon. 

Q: Is Cedar Rapids’ flood protection system working?

A: Above-ground protective measures — including nearly 10 miles of earthen berms and barriers and upward of 400,000 sandbags — have held at bay the swollen Cedar River. But underground systems are stressed and the potential remains for floodwater to enter through the storm sewer.

“It’s still not a safe situation,” said Jen Winter, public works director. “What you see above ground is dry, what is underground is completely saturated.”

At Wednesday morning's news conference, city officials said they are still monitoring the temporary flood protection system around the clock. 

They also said it is possible that some parts of the temporary system might be left in place longer-term. 

EVACUATION AND EMERGENCY INFORMATION

Q: What should I do if I need help?

A: Call 211. If you are unable to do so, call (319) 739-4211 or 1-866-469-2211. Elderly or disabled residents can call (319) 892-6500.

Q: I evacuated. When can I get back into my house and what do I need to know before doing so?

A: Residents and businesses will be allowed in at noon Friday for flood-recovery efforts.

However, officials warn that cleanup and deconstruction of the temporary protection system will be a many-day process and residents should be wary of ongoing construction and road hazards. Residents who do not own property in the evacuation zone are asked to avoid the area to reduce congestion. 

The area will open to the public at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

The City will continue to provide updates at cedar-rapids.org.

Scroll down to 'clean up' for information on what to expect when returning to properties in the evacuation zone.  

Q: What are the curfew hours?

A: The curfew expired Friday at 7 a.m., but the public is encouraged not to enter flood-affected areas until they open to the public at 7 a.m. Saturday. Before then, only business and property owners should enter for flood cleanup. 

Q: Where are shelters operating?

A: The American Red Cross is operating shelters in Cedar Rapids at Cedar Hills Community Church 6455 E Ave. NW. and Saint Paul’s United Methodist Church, 1340 Third Ave. SE.

The shelters served around 130 people overnight Wednesday - similar to the number overnight Tuesday - and are scheduled to remain open until evacuates residents can get home and have power and water access.

Q: Are the downtown hospitals open?

A: Yes, all clinics, departments and services for UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital and Mercy Cedar Rapids remain open. They are not within the affected areas.

City officials have advised that the best way to reach the downtown hospitals from the opposite side of the Cedar River is to take Interstate 380 and exit at 7th Street. 

Q: What precautions should be taken about tetanus?

A: Tetanus vaccines obtained more than five years ago no longer may be effective against a bacterial infection, Linn County Public Health officials noted in news release Monday. Injuries sustained while working in floodwater are at an elevated risk for a tetanus infection, health officials said. Appointments for a tetanus vaccination can be arranged by calling Linn County Public Health at (319) 892-6093.

Q: I've heard about flood-related scams - what's the latest?

A: The FBI is opening an investigation into reports of scams preying on potential flood victims. Residents should not leave homes or businesses unsecured and should not give out credit card information to any callers claiming to offer flood help. 

Iowa's Attorney General warned on Friday that residents should not pay contractors for cleanup work until the work is completed - asking for payment in advance is a classic scam. A mobile Attorneys General's office will open to address any concerns. It will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at the City Services Center and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday at the downtown Cedar Rapids Public Library. 

Q: What about boating - can I go on the river? 

A: No. Boats are asked to remain off the water until further notice. 

VOLUNTEER INFORMATION

Q: Are volunteers needed today?

A: Yes, volunteers are needed for recovery and clean up. Interested volunteers can register with the United Way at www.uweci.org to receive updates as volunteer requests begin to come in again.

Volunteers will be needed at Noelridge pool beginning at 7 a.m. Friday and at Ellis Park near the tennis courts beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday to help with sandbag collection.  

Q: Who is coordinating the longer-term volunteer efforts?

A: The United Way of East Central Iowa is coordinating many of the volunteer opportunities. The American Red Cross Greater Iowa Chapter also is accepting financial donations. And a Facebook group — CR Flood Help 2016 — has been active with requests and offers to help.

Q: Is there a place where I can donate money for flood relief efforts?

A: The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation has established the Flood Fund 2016 and is accepting donations through its website at gcrcf.org. Both corporate and individual contributions are being taken. 

Business information: 

Q: When can I reopen my business? 

A: Businesses should follow the same guidelines as residents for reentering the evacuation zone (above). However, city officials have asked businesses in or near the evacuation zone to consider not fully opening until next week to keep traffic off the roads. 

The Gazette is collecting updates on business reopening and cleanup efforts - share your story here.

Q: What assistance is available for businesses?

A: Businesses that need help are also encouraged to call the United Way at 211 or (319) 739-4211. 

The City of Cedar Rapids plans to send out a survey to business owners that were in the original, 28-foot evacuation zone to measure the economic impact of the flood - including cost of flood preparations, any damages and lost revenues while the evacuation was in effect. 

Those who are not already included in an email distribution list with the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance or Czech Village/NewBo Mainstreet District should visit the City's website and complete a form to receive future surveys and communications.  The form can be found online at http://bit.ly/2dGU1j8

The Cedar Rapids Main Street district has advised business owners, property owners and employers to gather the following information, which will be helpful in planning for recovery: Three years of corporate and/or personal tax returns, current financial statements and a detailed listing of equipment and inventory, and Flood insurance and any other business insurance policies.

During Thursday's news conference, mayor Ron Corbett urged citizens to "become the stimulus" and pledge to visit and support businesses that had to close during the flood at least 10 times during the next month. 

Q: Where can business sandbags be taken? 

A: It depends on where the business is located - see our article on sandbag disposal for full details

CLEAN UP:

Q: Where should flood debris and sandbags be taken?

A:The City of Cedar Rapids has said garbage removal should return to a normal schedule in the evacuation zone next week. Two additional 35-gallon bags can be placed at the curb for no charge. Residents are asked to place flood debris into four separate piles at the curb: one for drywall, carpet, and other household flood debris; one for household hazardous materials like oil-based paints and stains, automotive fluids, and cleaning supplies; one for appliances; and one for electronics.

Sandbags should not be placed with regular trash.

For residential sandbags, the city will open two additional collection points: One in the Noelridge Pool parking lot, beginning at 7 a.m. Friday, and one at Ellis Park near the tennis courts, beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

There are different guidelines for business sandbags (above). 

The city has also provided a guide to reusing sand around the house [PDF].

Most debris can be taken to the Cedar Rapids/Linn County Solid Waste Agency landfill at 1954 County Home Road in Marion, but regular charges will apply. Hazardous materials, including sand and sandbags that have come into contact with floodwater, appliances, TVs, computers and tires should be separated for disposal. The agency is open from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and officials warn there is potential for long wait times. Regular fees will apply.

ISU Extension has additional information on cleaning up flooding at extension.iastate.edu.

Q: I have water in my basement - what should I do? 

A: First, contact your utilities providers to make sure there is no danger from electricity or gas: 

Alliant Energy – 1-800-255-4268

MidAmerican Energy – 1-888-427-5632

Linn County Public Health has warned residents to be wary of carbon monoxide poisoning as well. Carbon monoxide is a colorless, ordorless and toxic gas. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion; and high levels can be deadly - seek fresh air immediately if you experience these symptoms. 

Then, only approved contractors should work on flood-impacted properties.

The contractor must obtain a Flood Permit from the City to make repairs. The Mayor has waived the fee for Flood Permits which will be issued for all repairs within the flood inundation level.

Call (319) 286-5929 to see if a contractor has the proper permits and licenses to clean up floodwater. This is not a contractor referral, but a validation service.

Q: What will happen to all the sand from sandbags and HESCO barriers?

A: The barriers filled with sand and lined up on public roadways will be emptied and removed first so roads can be reopened. Berms not blocking roads or footpaths could be left in place for a few weeks. City officials have said they will try to salvage and reuse as much sand as possible, but sand that is touched by floodwaters might be considered contaminated.

Q: What do I need to know about flood insurance?

A: Iowa Insurance Division Commissioner Nick Gerhart said Iowans can call (817) 955-1212 or visit iid.iowa.gov to check on the status of their flood insurance or learn more. 

SCHOOLS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT:

Q: When will regular school schedules resume?

A: The Cedar Rapids Community School District on Tuesday canceled classes for the rest of the week. District offices will be open on Thursday and Friday. Classes will resume Monday, Oct. 3, which was previously a “no school day.”

“Monday, Oct. 3 will now be a regular school day for all students,” according to the district. “Busses will run on Monday as close to their normal schedules as possible.”

Xavier and Metro Catholic Schools also canceled classes Thursday and Friday. They too will be back in session on Monday.

Q: Any restrictions on landfill use?

A:  According to a city release, shingle recycling is only available at 1954 County Home Road, Marion, until further notice. Please direct all loads to that location. The tipping fee is $30.00 per ton.

 

Q: Will the district have make-up days?

A: Friday, June 2, 2017, will serve as a make-up date for Cedar Rapids Community Schools.

Q: Is the Library open? 

A: The Library is expected to remain closed until Monday. They are outside the 24-foot evacuation zone, and are starting to move materials back in to the first floor, but are staying closed to reduce traffic near the evacuation zone.

The city has asked other businesses near the evacuation zone to consider similar plans - start cleaning up, but remain closed until more roads are open. 

Q: Where can I find Cedar Rapids City Hall staff?

A: Cedar Rapids City Hall departments have relocated temporarily to the following buildings:

City Clerk, Community Development, Finance, Community Development-Housing and the Human Resources departments are at the former Ambroz Recreation Building, 2000 Mount Vernon Road SE.

City Treasurer (water payments) and Civil Rights Department are at Water Administration Building, 1111 Shaver Road NE

Mayor, City Council and City Manager’s Office are at the City Services Center, 500 15th Ave. SW

All Department phone numbers remain the same.

Q: When will the Linn County Jail and Courthouse reopen?

According to a Linn County media release, the Linn County Juvenile Justice Center will reopen to the public for normal business on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8 a.m. The Juvenile Justice Center remained dry during the recent Cedar River flooding.

The Linn County Courthouse on May’s Island remains closed until further notice, according to the release.

 An update from Thursday, Sept. 29: The Sheriff's Office & Jail remain closed. However: Male inmates have been returned to the jail, while  female inmates remain at the Washington County Jail.

Q: What about parks and recreation?

A: The Cedar Rapids Parks & Recreation Department's NW Recreation Center will stay open until 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and all daytime and evening activities are scheduled to go on as planned. 

Ushers Ferry Historic Village is closed until October 15 and activities that were planned for before that date are cancelled. There is still no access to baseball fields at Ellis Park and Tait Cummins Softball Complex as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Bender Pool reopened Wednesday. 

Q: How do I sign up for text and email alerts from the city and county?

A: For Cedar Rapids alerts, visit CRNewsNow.com. For Linn County alerts, visit linncounty-ema.org and click on “LinnAlerts.”

Friday is expected to be the final daily press conference on flood updates. 

Q: Did early voting begin Thursday as planned?

A: Yes, early voting began September 29. The Linn County Auditor's Office has moved to the Community Services Building, 1240 26th Ave. Ct. SW, and will remain there until Monday, Oct. 3. People can register to vote there, request absentee ballots, and cast their votes there on Thursday once early voting begins.

Q: Where can I find the Linn County Treasurer's Office?

A: A mobile unit is available at the Linn County Community Services Building, 1240 26th Ave. Court SW, Cedar Rapids. It will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Motor vehicle transactions such as tag renewals can be processed there.

The Treasurer's Office will return to the Jean Oxley Linn County Public Service Center, 935 2nd St. SW, at 7 a.m. Friday. 

Q: What about property taxes?

A: Governor Terry Branstad announced that the deadline for property taxes will be extended one month due to flooding impacts at the Linn County Treasurer's Office.  

ROAD CLOSURES AND TRANSPORTATION:

 

Q: Have any roads reopened?

A: City officials said they are working on inspecting bridges and ramps, and restrictions will remain in place until at least 7 a.m. Saturday. 

They hope to be able to open bridges and ramps at that time.

Update from the City of Cedar Rapids: Effective immediately, 3rd Avenue, 8th Avenue, and 12th Avenue Bridges are reopen following the removal of flood protection measures.  
 
Motorists are advised to use caution and watch for any remaining flood debris on roadways.  

 

For Cedar Rapids: A list of road closures can be viewed at http://www.cedar-rapids.org/alert_detail.php

For Linn County: for an interactive map of road closures visit linncounty.org, click on Government; Engineering and Secondary Roads Department; Road Closures and Restrictions.

Q: Are busses running yet?

A: Cedar Rapids transit services will continue to be suspended through Friday. Service will resume when roads and bridges reopen.

Q: Is Interstate 380 back to normal?

A: As of Thursday morning, I-380 South Exit 19B had reopened to traffic. Traffic can only go westbound after using this exit, as eastbound IA 922 remains closed for flooding. Other downtown exits remain closed.

Ramps are being inspected, and are expected to open at 7 a.m. Saturday. 

All lanes of I-380 can now be used for normal traffic. The left inside lane on I-380 — closest to the median — had previously been reserved for emergency vehicles only. Drivers should still yield to emergency vehicles, as I-380 is the main way to access the hospitals from the west side of the river. 

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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